New photography exhibit asks: what is it to be Nova Scotian?

MFA thesis exhibition of NSCAD student Evan Rensch, “By your pleasure, I did see,” opened on March 9 and features a range of photographs exploring perceived and authentic representations of Nova Scotian life.

The crowd filters into the gallery and one by one comes face to face with a large unfinished looking wall complete with an exposed wooden frame and utility cords running down the side; not something you might expect to see when coming into a photography exhibit. The first thing NSCAD masters of fine arts student Evan Rensch wants his audience to consider is what happens behind the scenes.


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His thesis photography exhibit By your pleasure, I did see opened at the Anna Leonowens Gallery on Monday.

Rensch’s new exhibit features a collection of photographs that explore the contrast between the image of Nova Scotia presented in the province’s tourism marketing campaigns and the real lives of Nova Scotia’s residents.

The photos in the exhibit range from the interior of an overgrown rustic cottage, to the kilted security guards of the Delta Halifax, to the cluttered workspace of a local call centre worker.

Exploring the cultural and historical perspectives of the Maritimes has been an interest of Rensch since he began photography.

“I grew up in New Brunswick and I wanted to come back to the maritime region after being away for five years,” said Rensch. “I wanted to come back specifically to photograph here. To a certain extent I developed, more than an interest, sort of a commitment to a lot of the culture and issues in the region.”

MFA Thesis project of Evan Rensch. - Photo by Mitchell Mullen.
MFA Thesis project of Evan Rensch. – Photo by Mitchell Mullen.

For Rensch, the way Nova Scotia presents itself as a province often comes at the expense of depicting the province’s modern life.

“This work is about labour and it’s about the on the surface labour that a visitor or new comer to the province sees and also the backstage, the call centre worker, the people whose labour we maybe don’t acknowledge in official narratives of the province.”

Amanda Shore, a NSCAD student attending the gallery opening, said the way Rensch set up the space added an engaging dimension to the exhibit.

MFA thesis of Evan Rensch "By your pleasure, I did see" - Photo by Mitchell Mullen.
MFA thesis of Evan Rensch “By your pleasure, I did see” – Photo by Mitchell Mullen.

“When you walk in you see the back of a wall and you see the power cords, the studs and the nails and you’re kind of allowed to turn around and have the work reveal itself to you and that’s really lovely,” said Shore.

Rensch says the representation of the province especially extends to Halifax’s urban growth.

“It is an increasingly urban society in Halifax. There’s huge migrations of people from rural communities into the city and it’s grown tremendously,” said Rensch.

“I’m interested in the official pastoral image [of Nova Scotia] juxtaposed with what we know as our daily existence here in Halifax.”

The exhibit is open to the public and runs from March 9 until the 21.